Have you ever woken in the morning and feel like your spouse’s good morning wish suddenly sounds muffled? Maybe you feel a bit of fullness in the ears, or maybe you just got off the airplane and are surprised your ears still seemed plugged hours later. Before you worry too much, know that there are many every day reasons why your hearing may change, such as:

  • Ear wax blocking the ear canal
  • A recent cold or bout with allergies causing extra congestion and fluid in your ears
  • Changes in air pressure such as from flying or driving

Our ears are complex and each part of our auditory system has a job to do, so we can hear well. Ear wax or other debris can simply block the canal making it harder to process sound. Equalized air pressure is also important to ear function and a simple cold can interfere with the middle ear’s management of pressure as well as add fluid into the ear. If symptoms such as muffled hearing or plugged ears are more than just a day or two, you should seek out the help of an audiologist or hearing care professional.

Here’s why. First, it is not a good idea to clean out wax with a common cotton swap. Cotton swaps can actually do more damage by pushing ear wax further down into the canal. If ear wax or debris is an issue an audiologist can help you remove safely and also provide at-home care tips to prevent in the future. Next, if the muffled or plugged feeling is caused by air pressure, the audiologist will examine your middle ear functions to understand where the issues are coming from and why. Finally, in some cases muffled hearing or plugged ears may be symptoms of a larger hearing loss problem.

Your audiologist or hearing care professional is not just the place to get a hearing test, but also your resource to maintain your hearing health.